Hal McRae thought the 1976 batting title was stolen from him in a racist plot

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From the Department of I Had No Idea This Ever Happened comes the racial controversy over the 1976 A.L. batting title.  The part I knew about: the race came down to the last day between teammates George Brett and Hal McRae. In their last at bats, Brett hit an inside the park home run and McRae grounded out: title Brett.

The part I had no idea about: McRae believed there to be a racist conspiracy in play to throw the title to Brett:

After the game, McRae claimed that the Twins conspired to give Brett the title. Racism, McRae said, was the motivation . . . McRae’s claim centered on the argument that [Twins’ outfielder Steve] Brye was playing too deep
(at Mauch’s instruction) and that Brye likely hesitated on Brett’s
flyball, letting it fall . . . Brett also is quoted as saying, “I think maybe the Twins made me a
present of the batting championship, and if they did, I feel just as
bad about it as Hal does”.

All that came from a 1976 copy of the Sporting News unearthed by the Royals Review blog.  The kicker: it was just in some ordinary story on page 31, unaccompanied by any commentary or anything.  And nothing else ever really came of it.

Royals Review asks the question I had the moment I started reading it: can you imagine if that happened today.  The commentary explosion would definitely be something to behold. Most of it would probably be pretty predictable, of course.

I think it would be worth it alone just to see what the K.C. Star’s Jason Whitlock would do. I can’t decide if he would go with the conspiracy theory angle (his Jeff George articles are classics of the genre), the straight up racism story, or if he would go with what is perhaps his greatest strength and take the really, really contrary angle and, I dunno, accuse McRae of hatching his own conspiracy to create the batting title conspiracy and then use the rest of the column to slam ESPN and the nation’s culture.

Morris, Trammell, humbled and emotional at being elected to the Hall of Fame

Associated Press
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — Jack Morris and Alan Trammell met the press 18 hours after learning that they were elected to the Hall of Fame. Trammell was still humbled. Morris was still emotional, breaking up numerous times as he answered reporters questions. When Morris did manage to compose himself, he said a couple of pretty interesting things. Even some funny things.

“I want all the writers to know, I’m not mad at any of you,” Morris said, addressing the baseball writers, who for 15 years failed to vote him into the Hall of Fame. Morris, who at some points over his time on the ballot was, in fact, quite cranky about not being elected, struck a more conciliatory tone this morning, admitting that he did not fully understand the baseball analytics upon which many voters relied in judging him more negatively than he was judged during his playing career. There was a suggestion in his tone that, perhaps, the voters had a point about his relative place in the game and that he understood that now a bit better than he might’ve a few years ago. Not that he’s too hung up on it. “Now that I’m in, I don’t have to worry about any of it,” Morris added.

Trammell never came particularly close to election when he was on the writer’s ballot while Morris only fell a couple of votes short. One could be excused, however, if one thought that he’d thought more about what he’d say on the occasion of his election than Morris did.  “To be part of a dream team, you can’t envision that. As a young boy, all I wanted was to become a major league baseball player,” Trammell said. “And now to be a Hall of Famer . . . it’s indescribable.” For Morris part, he said that he had a lot of practice over the years in responding to reporters asking him about not being elected and that he was prepared to do so again this week. He seemed genuinely surprised that he made it as evidenced by his emotional, off-the-cuff responses to questions.

Both players were asked about their longtime manager Sparky Anderson and both talked warmly about him while acknowledging his often tough love.

Morris said Sparky made him a ballplayer. Trammell said that he and the other young Tigers players who broke into pro ball in the mid-to-late 70s thought they knew what they were doing but that “Sparky showed me I didn’t know squat.” He said that he could field well when he was young but that his hitting lagged. Trammell would, of course, turn into an excellent offensive shortstop, and that a lot of that was due to Anderson’s motivation. “He batted me ninth and I didn’t want to bat ninth . . . he told me when I hit it looked like I was swinging a wet newspaper.” Morris said that he thought of Anderson as “a father and older brother in one.” He said Sparky would make him angry but that he’d never be the pitcher he was if it wasn’t for him.

Trammell, as expected, was asked about his longtime double play mate Lou Whitaker, who was also on the Veterans’ Committee Ballot but who did not gain induction despite a Hall-worthy resume.

“We’re linked together, as we should be,” Trammell said. He said that it has long been his dream to be inducted at the same time as Whitaker. “The dream didn’t happen that we’d go in together this year, but I’m hoping that someday it does happen.” Trammell said. “I’m entitled to my opinion and my dreams.”

Finally, both Morris and Whitaker were asked about Marvin Miller, the groundbreaking and history-making union chief who, once again, was denied election.

Trammell said he’s thankful for Miller and hopes the young players recognize what he did. He says he’d be shocked if Miller is not inducted one day. Morris echoed those comments. “There’s a whole generation of players who have no idea who he was or what he did . . . I’ll always be a strong supporter of him.”

Each player then left the stage and began to be swarmed by reporters in small group sessions. It’s just the beginning of a seven-month whirlwind between now and July 29, when each will be inducted to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.